Let a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) help you gain organic food, flowers, and more.
Wouldn’t it be grand to walk onto a farm and make a partnership with a like-minded farmer? One who believes as you do about your fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, eggs, meats, milk, and more. You’d talk with the farmer about raising the products and recipes. The farmer might introduce you to some new fruits or vegetables you’d never heard of before. You’d become partners. The farmer would provide food for you produced in a manner you want. You would help support their venture. It’s a win win situation.
Well… You don’t need to wish for such a thing because it already exists. They are called Community Supported Agriculture or a CSA. And now is the time to find the perfect one for you. I know I know, some of you are more concerned with sliding on the ice than picking up freshly grown vegetables from a local grower. And others are enjoying the cool weather before the heat hits. You think you have lots of time to figure this out. But right now – is the best time to find out about a CSA in your area and join. If you wait too long the CSA you want might not have any room for you.
What Is a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)?
A CSA or community supported agriculture (sometimes called community shared agriculture) is a partnership between a local grower and customers. This relationship guarantees the farmer upfront capital for planning and planting. The farmer has a direct connection to the market and knows what the customers want. This direct relationship between the farmer and the customer takes out the middleman. The customer has direct access to the farmer so they can ask questions, get information, and gain peace of mind before purchasing. Plus, the consumer is guaranteed fresh products each week or month depending on the CSA and product.
The farmer doesn’t have to guess how much to plant, they know the customer base. The farmer plans their planting and raising of food according to the number of people they serve. This creates little to no wasted food, and the consumer doesn’t need to guess what food will be available.
Types of CSAs and how they work
There are many different types of CSAs available in your community. The way food is grown in the CSA can vary from certified organic to industrial farm methods. Some Organic CSAs are certified Organic or in the process of certification. Others have chosen not to become USDA certified but grow in an organic manner. The best way to know how your food is being raised is by talking to the owners of the CSA. They will be glad to share how their CSA works, their growing methods, and organic beliefs. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. And don’t be afraid not to choose a specific CSA. You want your food beliefs to align with the farmer’s growing beliefs for your peace of mind and a harmonious relationship.
Besides how a CSA grows their food there are different ways they are set up. Usually, the customer buys a share or different types of shares for their needs. Originally “a share” or portion of a share came from sharing the bounty for the week. In today’s CSA market most places still go by the share or half a share, but it is for a specific amount of food. Depending on what the CSA offers will depend on what type of share you may buy. Or what type of add-on shares you can put together. Talk to your potential CSA to understand exactly how much food you will receive each week.
Some CSAs are run completely by one farmer or farm family and offer one thing – produce, or meat, or milk. Other CSAs combine local farm resources giving you a one-stop shop for meat, milk, produce, flowers, and more.
Another CSA model is a member CSA where customers buy into the CSA as a member. This buy-in reserves a share of products throughout the season. Then each week the CSA member purchases specific items at a reduced price than from the stores. It gives the farmer upfront money for seeds, and then money each week. This CSA model allows members to choose what they want and how much each week. The member budgets their own spending over a season instead of larger payments.
Some CSAs require all the money upfront. Others require an initial fee then a monthly payment. Some CSAs allow you to work for part of your share, sometimes called a workshare. A workshare means the consumer helps the farmer in some manner on the farm. They could help harvest, weed, plant seeds, or anything else the farmer needs help doing during the year.
Benefits of a CSA for everyone.
A CSA creates a community of people who believe in the same philosophy of how their food is grown, harvested, and delivered. It allows the customer to have direct contact and impact on their own food source. Plus, fresh food from a local source. Many CSAs ask their members questions throughout the year, making changes as needed. The CSA farmer has a reduced risk of growing and selling products. Which means greater success and less stress for the farmer. CSA members get the freshest produce available and become a partner with the farmer.
Finding a CSA
Yes, I am still serious – you need to find the right CSA for you right now! Even if it means getting on a list until there is an opening at the CSA of your choice. Plus, by getting in early you can usually make several payments and not have a large investment up front.
Now that you are ready to join a CSA you need to find one in your area. And if you are thinking you’ve never seen a CSA in your area, you’re probably right. They normally don’t stick out as you drive by.
Look online for local CSAs as well as your local Farmer’s Market. Some CSAs bring products to the local farmers market. Non-CSA farmers will also direct you to a local CSA in the area.
Other places to look is your newspaper, Chamber of Commerce, Agriculture Center, Local Harvest, and the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) also keeps a partial database at https://www.ams.usda.gov/local-food-directories/csas
Once you find a CSA that meets your needs, call and visit them. Most CSA owners are great about inviting you to their farm for a visit. Make sure you join early; many CSAs fill up fast from year to year.
Once you’ve made the commitment to a CSA, get involved, meet other members, and enjoy the freshest foods on earth.
What are your great experiences with a CSA?
Let us know in the comments.
If you run a CSA or have a favorite CSA you can leave the information in the comments as well.
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